DeGrom Digging: A Statistical Dissection of One of Baseball’s True Aces

By Louis Addeo-Weiss

Five-plus years ago, Jacob DeGrom burst onto the scene in the major league scene in style, pitching to a 2.69 ERA across 22 starts en route to a runaway win for National League Rookie of the Year.

DeGrom’s unexpected emergence filled many a Met fan with hopes of a brighter tomorrow, as DeGrom would slot into the rotation along with Matt Harvey, who, at the time, was working his way back from Tommy John Surgery, giving the club what looked to be a lethal 1-2 punch for the ensuing future.

After 2015, when the Mets played spirited baseball en route to their fifth National League Pennant, Harvey returned with a vengeance, pitching to a 2.71 ERA, and totalling 5.4 Wins Above Replacement, DeGrom followed up his stellar rookie campaign with an even better 2015 (2.54 ERA, 205 SO, 149 ERA+, and 5.2 WAR), and the emergence of fellow flamethrower Noah Syndergaard, who pitched well in his own right (3.24 ERA, 166 SO, 10 S0/9), the Mets appeared to be set for continued success for years to come.

Alas, 2015 was the last we saw of the Matt Harvey many around baseball believed we would moving forward, and the Mets slowly dissented into the lower echelons of the NL East, losing 92 and 85 games in 2017 and ‘18, respectively.

This, however, hasn’t stopped DeGrom from continuing to pitch at a high level, which is the impetus for this piece. We know how great DeGrom has been since arriving onto the scene in 2014, but just how great has he really been?

Let the numbers do the talking.

According to the baseball-reference play index, since debuting in 2014, DeGrom’s 146 ERA+ is fourth among all pitchers with at least 1000 innings pitched over that span of time.

Piggy-backing off of ERA+, which takes ones’ ERA into account in the context of the rest of the league, we’ll backtrack a bit and refer to ERA.

DeGrom’s 2.65 ERA since the start of the 2014 season is second among all qualified starters, with the only name above him, not surprisingly, Clayton Kerhsaw, who has posted a 2.20 ERA over a practically identical stretch of time; Kershaw has thrown 1059.1 innings since the start of 2014, while DeGrom has thrown 1059.2.

One common trait shared by DeGrom and the aforementioned Kershaw is the fact that they’ve reeled in the hardware during this time, with DeGrom winning his previously mentioned Rookie of the Year in 2014, and Cy Young in 2018, when he posted a sport-leading 1.70 ERA, 218 ERA+, and sparkling 1.98 FIP, and Kershaw winning the league’s MVP and Cy Young in 2014, pitching to a 1.77 ERA, 197 ERA+, and 1.81 FIP.

Referring to Wins Above Replacement, which assess total player contributions relative to their peers across the league, DeGrom has been a top-5 pitcher since his arrival into Major League Baseball.

His 30.8 WAR since his June 8, 2014 debut is higher than the likes of Zack Greinke (30.5), Chris Sale (29.5), and Justin Verlander (28.6), and ranks fourth among all qualified starters during this span.

With strikeouts being dime-a-dozen in today’s game where hitters’ primarily focus on launch angle, to give a pitcher credit for amassing a certain number of strikeouts may be a poor indication of pitcher ability, but the old adage still stands that missing bats is an indicator of a great pitcher, and that’s just what DeGrom is.

His 1207 strikeouts rank seventh among all qualified starters, and his K% of 28.5 being fourth since 2014.

Giving up home runs is something no pitcher enjoys doing, and since 2014, no two pitchers have done a better job at preventing the longball than Kershaw and DeGrom.

DeGrom’s 91 home runs allowed rank as the second lowest among all starters in the past half-decade, with Kershaw only holding a slight advantage at 90 allowed.

The Mets’ aces propensity to limit extra-base hits is noted by the fact that he’s allowed the second least amount of doubles (149), and is tied with current Chicago Cubs’ pitcher Cole Hamels (10) for least triples allowed over that time.

DeGrom’s 30.8 WAR since 2014 is better than Hamels respectable 25.1 mark.

But enough about this talk regarding DeGrom in a contemporary context, because as we’ve already noted, he is among the four-to-five best pitchers in the sport. A deeper look inside DeGrom’s career thus far provides greater appreciation for how great he has been.

DeGrom’s 1207 strikeouts through his first six seasons are good enough for thirteenth all-time. With the Mets in the midst of the race for the second NL Wild Card, the team is expected to rely on DeGrom as they go down the stretch.

How does that relate to the previously noted statistic? DeGrom has made 26 starts to this point in the season, and the right-hander, who should make about 6-7 starts the rest of the way, could pass some names on this list, including Gus Wheying (1208), Kerry Wood (1209), Hideo Nomo (1212), and Roger Clemens (1215), all of whom DeGrom could pass in his next start should he pitch well enough.

Other names such as Mark Baldwin (1249) and Mark Langston (1253) also appear within reach, and should DeGrom pass them, he’d have the seventh most strikeouts through a pitcher’s first six seasons in baseball history.

DeGrom’s above-named 30.8 WAR is eleventh best for a pitcher through this respective period of time, slightly better than former Mets’ pitching phenom Dwight Gooden who amassed 30.6 WAR through his first six seasons, though DeGrom did so in approximately 232 less innings than Gooden (1059.2-1291). 

Making note again of DeGrom’s 2.65 ERA, in a historical context, that mark, according to the baseball-reference play index, is 23rd all-time among pitchers through their first six-seasons, with Gooden’s 2.64 mark easily in reach by season’s end.

The 146 ERA+ DeGrom has totalled thus far is tied with Clayton Kershaw for second all-time, with the only name above them being Jim Devlin, who played during baseball’s dead ball era from 1875-1877, and only totalled three full seasons pitched, which would give DeGrom and Kershaw the ERA+ crown for this allotted period of time.

Great starting pitching, in many regards, is personified by the art of run prevention, and as we’ve seen, DeGrom has harnessed this skill almost as well as any pitcher of his era.

In fact, his 312 runs allowed between 2014-19, are tied with Fred Gale, who, too, pitched in baseball’s dead ball era, for second all-time, trailing that aforementioned Devlin.

While DeGrom is already 31, we aren’t sure just how long he’ll continue to pitch at the level he currently is, but regardless, he has been a thrill to watch since entering the league, as he’s quickly established himself as one of the premier pitchers of his era, and gotten off to one of the best starts to a career a pitcher can have.

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